Chapter 9: What is Islam by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



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What is Islam

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry


Social Order

I- Basic Concepts

II- Rights and Obligations

III- Conduct

IV- Manners

I- Basic Concepts

Before discussing the contours of Islamic social order, let us briefly highlight some basic concepts which motivate the believers to form an ideal society to live in. First such concept is brotherhood and unity among Muslims.

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Islamic brotherhood and unity 

Islam believes and also stands for universal brotherhood of all Muslims all over the world. It preaches unity among Muslims and wants to see them as they were a sold structure. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, calls upon the believers, “And hold fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and do not separate” (3:103). It also enjoins upon them: “And obey Allah and His Messenger and dispute not with one another lest you falter and your strength depart from you…..” (8:46). The Qur’an tells the believers that they are naught else than brothers (49:10). Therefore they must make peace when there is some dispute between two brothers or two groups of brothers. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "A Muslim is brother to a Muslim. He does neither wrong to him, nor puts him to disgrace, nor he hates him. Every Muslim’s blood, property and honour are sacred to a Muslim. Spread peace among you, eat together and be not separate, because blessing is with united body".

Let us reproduce some more traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to further explain the concept of brotherhood and unity among his followers.

  1. God’s messenger is reported as saying: “The believers are like a single man; if his eye is affected he is all affected, and if his head is affected he is all affected.”   (Muslim)

  2. Abu Musa al-Ash’ari reported the Prophet as saying: “Believers are to one another like a building whose parts support one another.” He then interlaced his fingers.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

  3. Nu’man-b-Bashir reported that the Messenger of Allah said: You will see the believers in their mutual kindness, love and sympathy just like one body. When a limb complains, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

  4. Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Help your brother whether he is a wrong doer or is wronged. A man enquired: O Messenger of Allah! I may help him when he is wronged, but how can I help him when he is a wrong-doer? He said: you can prevent him from wrong-doing. That will be your help to him.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

  5. Abu sayeed reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoso Muslim clothes a naked Muslim, Allah will clothe him with green robes of Paradise; and whoso Muslim feeds a hungry Muslim, Allah will feed him from the fruits of Paradise; and whoso Muslim gives drink to a thirsty Muslim, Allah will give him drink from the close-up Fountain. (Abu Daud, Tirmizi)

  6. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: It is not lawful for a Muslim to forsake his brother beyond three (days). So whoso forsakes beyond three (days) and then dies shall enter the Fire.    (Ahmad, Abu Daud)

  7. Abul Kherash as-Solami reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah say: Whoever forsakes his brother for a year is like one who sheds his blood.    (Abu Daud)

  8. Sayeed-b-Zaid reported from the Holy Prophet who said: The most compound of usury is prolonging (tongue of evil) unjustly in respect of the honour of a Muslim.   (Abu Daud)

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Second concept is that of friendship. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said: Man is upon the religion of his friend and there is no good in friendship with one who does not see for you what he sees for himself. The almighty Allah has prohibited friendship with the unbelievers, idol-worshipers, polytheists, evil-doers such as drunkards, adulterers, corrupt and wicked. Friendship with hypocrites and those non-Muslims who are working against Islam and against the interest of Muslims has also been prohibited. According to a saying, the liars, the illiterate, the foolish, the niggardly and the great transgressors should not be made friends, nor the proud, the flatterers, and the wicked be made friends.

Let us reproduce some verses of the Holy Qur’an and some traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to explain Islam’s concept of friendship.

  1. Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security. Allah biddeth you beware (only) of Himself. Unto Allah is the journeying.  (Al-Qur’an 3:28)

  2. O ye who believe! Take not for intimates others than your own folk, who would spare no pains to ruin you; they love to hamper you. Hatred is revealed by (the utterance of) their mouths, but that which their breasts hide is greater. We have made plain for you the revelations if ye will understand. (Al-Qur’an 3:118)

  3. And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish worship and they pay the poor-due, and they obey Allah and His messenger. As for these, Allah will have mercy on them. Lo! Allah is Mighty, wise.  (Al-Qur’an 9:71)

  4. Yazid b. Na’ama reported God’s Messenger as saying: “When a man makes another his brother he should ask him his name, his father’s name and the stock from which he comes, for it binds friendship more closely.” (Tirmizi)

  5. Imran-b-Khettan reported: I came to Abu Zarr and found him alone within the mosque covered with a black garment. Then I enquired: O Abu Zarr! Why is this loneliness? He said: I heard the Messenger of Allah say: Loneliness is better than a bad companion, and a good companion is better than loneliness; and the dictation of good is better than silence, and silence is better than dictation of evil.   (Baihaqi)

  6. Abu Musa reported that the Messenger of Allah said: A good and bad companion were like the bearer of musk and one who pumps but filth. As for the bearer of musk, he will either give you a share or you will get perfumed air from him, or you will purchase something from him and for one who pumps out filth, he will either burn your clothes or you will feel filthy smell from him.    (Bukhari, Muslim)

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Enjoining good and forbidding wrong

Next comes enjoining good and forbidding wrong. This concept is rather most important. The followers of Islam have been directed to enjoin good and forbid wrong. It is because of the fact that they are the last Ummah (community) and their prophet, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), is the final prophet. No prophet is to come after Muhammad (PBUH) and so the mission of the prophets regarding enjoining good and forbidding wrong will have to be performed by the followers of Muhammad (PBUH). According to the Qur’an, the last revealed book of Allah, Muslims are the best community that has been raised by Allah for the mankind and it is their duty that they enjoin good conduct and forbid the mankind from doing wrong (3:110).

The Holy Qur’an motivates the believers to stand up for enjoining good and for forbidding wrong in many of its verses. It says: And there may spring from you a nation who invite to goodness, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency. Such are they who are successful. (Al-Imran 3:104)

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has highlighted the merits of enjoining good and forbidding wrong in the following traditions:

  • Hudhaifa reported the Prophet as saying: “By Him in whose hand my soul is, you must enjoin what is reputable and forbid what is disreputable, or God will certainly soon send punishment from Himself to you. Then you will make supplication and not receive an answer.”   (Tirmizi)

  • Al-Urs b. ‘Amira reported the Prophet as saying: “When sin is done in the earth he who sees it and disapproves of it will be like one who was not present, but he who is not present when it is done and approves of it will be like him who sees it,”  (Abu Daud)

  • Abu Bakr as-Siddiq said: I heard God’s Messenger say: “When people see something objectionable and do not change it, God will soon include them all in His punishment.”

  • Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri reported God’s Messenger as saying: “If any of you sees something objectionable he should change it with his hand, but if he cannot he should do it with his tongue, and if he cannot he should do it in his heart, that being the weakest form of faith.   (Muslim)

  • Jabir reported God’s Messenger as saying that God who is great and glorious revealed to Gabriel that he should overthrow such and such a city with its inhabitants, and he (Gabriel) said: “My Lord! Among them is Thy servant so and so who has not disobeyed Thee by as much as the glance of an eye.” He replied: “Overturn it on him and on them, for his face never once showed anger on my behalf.”    (Mishkat)

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Concept of Equality

     Concept of equality preached by Islam has won for it a larger number of conversions especially from the down trodden classes like serfs, slaves, and harijans of India than any other idea or principle. Let us explain and discuss the concept of equality as held by Islam.

1- In an Islamic society all are equal as human beings. None is superior to the other on account of race, language, colour, place of birth or tribe. This is because all human beings come of the same human stock and are children of one parents. The Qur’an says:

“O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a Watcher over you.”   (4:An-Nisa:1)

Division of human beings into tribes and nations was ordained by the Creator for the purpose of recognition otherwise nobody is superior to the other except on basis of piety. In one of its well known verses the revealed book of Islam states this fact: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you… (49:13)”. Thus this verses places all the human beings on the equal level and makes the pious and righteous superior to the wicked and evil doers on the basis of virtuous conduct.

2- In the legal field also, Islam treats all the people equal. In the sight of law, all the citizens of the state are equal. They enjoy equal rights and in case of violation of law they are given equal punishment. In case of retaliation, murder, theft, adultery all are given equal treatment in respect of punishment. Similarly in civil matters and in case of rewards for actions, all are equal.

3- However in the moral and religious field, Islam makes distinction between the people and gives superiority to those who are good, pious, God fearing, observers of all religious practices and bearers of good moral character over impious, evil doers, bad characters, persons of loose morals, disbelievers and non-practicing believers. The Holy Qur’an says:

  • Say: The evil and good are not alike even though the plenty of the evil attract thee ……..   (5: Al-Maidah:100)

  • And the blind man and the seer are not equal, neither are those who believe and do good works (equal with) the evil-doer. Little do ye reflect! (40:Al-Mu’min:58)

  • Or do those who commit ill-deeds suppose that We shall make them as those who believe and do good works, the same in life and death? Bad is their judgement! (45:Al-Jathiyah:21)

  • O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.  (49:Al-Hujurat:13)

In his famous sermon delivered on the occasion of farewell pilgrimage, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) addressed the people as under: “O people, be aware: your God is one. No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, nor any non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab, and no white one has any superiority over a black one, and no black one any superiority over a white one except on the basis of taqva (piety). The most honourable among you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most pious and righteous of you”. Again, according to another tradition, the Prophet said: “You are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from the dust. Let the people give up boasting of their ancestors, otherwise they will stand more degraded than a mean insect in the sight of Allah”. There is yet another Hadith; “Allah does not see your outward appearances and your possessions but He sees your hearts and your deeds.”

4- In the economic field, Islam establishes equity, fairness and justice in the production of wealth, and in ownership of means of livelihood. However it recognises that like other natural things there is no equality among human beings as regards the earning of income and possession of worldly wealth. This inequality has been presented by the Qur’an as a part of Divine Economic order. The Qur’an does not consider these inequalities in the distribution of Divine sustenance as punishment or reward and does not try to eliminate them, because no two individuals have been blessed with hundred percent equal mental and physical abilities.

However disparities in economic field are not allowed by Islam to take dangerous proportions. Islam stands for fair and equitable distribution of wealth and its system of social security and social justice comes into play when gap between the rich and the poor widens beyond certain limits. 

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II – Rights and obligations

In the following paras we would deal with the rights and obligations of various cross sections of Islamic society. No doubt rights of one group mean the obligations of others towards it and the obligations of one group mean the rights of the others against it, e.g., the rights of parents are in fact obligations of children toward them and obligations of parents towards children are in fact rights of children against parents. So discussion can be made under one head only, either rights or obligations. But we would prefer to make discussion under the head rights─ such as rights of parents, rights of children, rights of poor, rights of neighbours, etc. ─ as our age is the age of human rights.

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Rights of parents

After rights of God, the rights of parents are the most supreme in the sight of Islam. In its list of priorities, the Qur’an places the duties towards parents only next to duties towards God. The Qur’an enjoins upon its followers to be kind and obedient toward their parents. If they attain old age and are living with you, you should not say them even fie (a word of slight derogation) what to speak of repulsing or misbehaving with them. You should be very much submissive in talking to them and always pray for Allah’s mercy on them. You should obey their orders, look after their comforts and must not be arrogant, rude or rebellious to them. According to a Hadith, your parents are your Paradise and your Hell, which means that by your good treatment to them you can earn Paradise while your disobedience and misbehaviour with them would make you liable for Hell. According to another Hadith, a person is very unfortunate who finds parents in old age and yet does not enter Paradise by serving them kindly and by according them good treatment. Disobedience to parents is a major sin, and the Almighty Allah may pardon every other sin he pleases except disobedience to parents.

Children are duty-bound to maintain their parents in their old age, and in case of default they would be forced by the state to maintain their parents. Islamic law of inheritance makes the parents shareholder in the estate left by their deceased child.

Among the parents, mother’s place in respect of kind treatment and obedience from children has been made higher than that of father. The Qur’an especially underlines the services of mother regarding the pains of pregnancy and her privations regarding rearing of the children; whereas the Prophet has declared that Paradise is near the feet of the mother.

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Rights of Children

Just as obedience to parents have been enjoined upon the children by the Qur’an and Hadith, similarly the parents have also been exhorted to discharge their duties and obligations towards their children. The duties of the parents include nursing and bringing-up of  the children, imparting of education and teaching of good manners, and spending for their comforts besides kind treatment, love, affection and their protection. At the very birth of a child, he or she should be given a good name. The parents are recommended to perform aqiqah or birth ceremony, provided they can afford, by sacrificing a goat or goats. Immediately on birth, proclamation of Allah’s name should be made in their ears and honey or some sweet thing should be given to them for suckling. According to a tradition of the Prophet, education is compulsory for every Muslim male or female and therefore, the parents are bound to provide them good education, religious as well as worldly, which normally starts with the teaching of the Holy Qur’an. The children are also taught how to perform their religious obligations like Prayer. Of all the gifts which the children receive from their parents, the best is good manners. So the children should be taught good manners and given good training regarding their behaviour and general conduct from the beginning. When the children reach marriageable age, it is the bounden duty of their parents to marry them. Even after the puberty, marriage and independence of children, the parents should pray for the well-being of their children and should never invoke curse or punishment of Allah against them. Among the children, the maintenance and up-bringing of daughters has been more stressed.

Spending for the maintenance of the children on their education, living and well-being, carries higher merit even as compared with spending in the way of Allah or spending in emancipating of slave. According to Islamic law of inheritance, children are entitled to prescribed shares in the estate left by their deceased parents.

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Mutual Rights of Husband and Wife

Man and woman come from the same stock. Allah has ordained love and mercy between husband and wife. About the relationship between the husband and wife, the Qur’an says: “They are your garments, and you are their garments: (2:187).The relationship between the husband and wife cannot be described perhaps in a better way than this. As the clothes protect a person from heat and cold, similarly husband and wife protect each other from social evils and moral vices of base passions, lewdness and sexual indulgence. Husband and wife are thus source of comfort, consolation, peace and security for each other. Besides relationship of love and affection, they are mutually entitled to kind treatment, good behaviour and respect of each other. According to the Prophet of Islam, the most perfect of the believers is he who is best to his wife. Similarly the best woman is she who obeys her husband, and who does not oppose him regarding herself and her riches. The Qur’an and the Prophet of Islam have especially enjoined upon the Muslims to treat their wives very kindly and nicely. Husband and wife are required to be faithful to each other and none of them is permitted to have sexual relations with any other person outside marriage.

Husband and wife have mutual rights of inheritance. In case of death of the husband, wife is entitled to inherit one-fourth of his estate if the husband leaves no child. But in the case of children, the share of the wife would be one-eighth. On the other hand, when the wife dies leaving no child, the share of the husband would be equal to one-half of her estate; but if she leaves children, the share of the husband would be one-fourth.

Briefly speaking, the rights of husband over wife include: that she should be obedient to her husband; that she should be faithful to her husband; that she should not refuse her husband to herself and her property; that she should bring up and train the children, and finally that she should protect her honour and her husband’s property in the absence of her husband. The rights of wife over husband include: that he should protect her; that he should give her kind treatment and should not beat her except for a serious cause like moral turpitude and even in that case beating should be mild with a view to reform, and that he should give her agreed dower and provide her house, food clothes, etc.

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Rights of the Orphans

The orphans should be kindly treated. They should be accorded, as far as possible, the same love and affection which is given to one’s own children. High rewards are promised for those who give kind treatment to the orphans. Whoso gives shelter to an orphan, Allah will guarantee him Paradise unless he has committed an unpardonable sin. Whoso shows kindness to an orphan under his care will live in Paradise near the Prophet (PBUH); and whoso passes his hand over the head of an orphan shall have merits for every hair over which his hand passes.

The orphans should be given food, drink and clothes. They should be taught good manners and given education. If the parents of the orphans have left property, the guardian should meet their expenses out of that. But if no property has been left by their parents, the expenses on their food, clothing, education, etc. should be met by the guardian from his own sources. Spending in the way of Allah on the orphan is a best form of charity and Allah would certainly reward those who provide food, clothing and shelter to the orphans.

There are clear Injunctions of the Holy Qur’an about the management of the property and wealth of the orphans. The guardians of the orphans have been strictly prohibited to exchange the good properties of the orphans with their bad properties. The guardians have also been exhorted not to absorb the properties and wealth of the orphans into their own wealth. The wealth of the orphans should not be devoured and squandered hastily with the idea that the orphans might not grow up and demand for its return. The Qur’an warns those who swallow the wealth of the orphans wrongfully by declaring that they swallow nothing but the fire into their bellies. Usurping the wealth of the orphans is one of the major sins and one who commits that sin would go to hell.

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Rights of Kinsmen

Islam has laid much stress upon the connection of blood-ties and family relations. Rights of family members upon each other and the duties and obligations towards family members and near kindred have been especially emphasized by the Qur’an and Prophet of Islam.

 The Qur’an stresses the rights of near relatives and kinsmen in following verses:

  1. They ask thee, (O Muhammad), what they shall spend. Say: That which ye spend for good (must go) to parents and near kindred and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer. And whatsoever good ye do, lo! Allah is Aware of it (2:215)

  2. And when kinsfolk and orphans and the needy are present at the division (of the heritage), bestow on them therefrom and speak kindly unto them. (4:8)

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined on his followers to honour the blood relations and accord them good treatment. He said:

  1. Abu Hurairah reported: O Messenger of Allah! Which charity is best? He said: The charity of the needy. And begin with one who is a kinsman.   (Abu Daud)

  2. Solaiman-b-A’mer reported that the Holy Prophet said: Alms to a poor man has one (merit) charity, and to a kinsman two (merits) charity and connection.  (Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Tirmizi, Nisai)

  3. Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoever desires that provisions might be extended to him and that his time of life be prolonged, let him keep affinity with his kindred.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

  4. Zubair-b-Mut’em reported that the Messenger of Allah said: One who cuts (blood-tie) shall not enter Paradise.    (Bukhari, Muslim)

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Rights of neighbours

Islam attaches paramount importance to the rights of neighbours. The Qur’an enjoins upon the believers to show kindness to their neighbours. The duty to neighbours is only next in importance to your duties towards parents and near kindred. The Prophet (PBUH) himself set noble example by his kind treatment towards his neighbours. He was very kind and friendly to Ashab-Suffa who were his immediate neighbours. Once Ali asked the Prophet for a maid-servant for Fatima, Prophet’s daughter, but the Prophet did not accede to the request, saying: “As yet the companions of Suffa have not been provided for”. The duties towards neighbours include: the neighbours should be accorded kind treatment: they should be safe from one’s injuries caused by actions or words: one should send presents and food to one’s neighbours however small it may be: in case of sickness they should be looked after and every sort of help should be extended to them.

Some jurists of Islam have held in the light of the Qur’an and Hadith that the neighbours have got right of pre-emption in case of disposal of property. This right which has been conferred by Islam is an important right which was not known before in any part of the world.

Following traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) bring in focus the rights of a neighbour:

  1. Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: One whose neighbour is not safe from his troubles, shall not enter Paradise.   (Muslim)

  2. Ayesha and Ibn Omar reported from the Messenger of Allah who said: Gabriel did not stop to advice me about neighbour till I thought that he would soon make him an heir.  (Bukhari, Muslim)

  3. Ibn Masud reported that a man asked the Holy Prophet: O Messenger of Allah! how can I know when I do good and when I do bad? The Holy Prophet said: when you hear your neighbours say-you have done good-you have done good, and when you hear them say-you have done bad-you have done bad.   (Ibn Majah)

  4. Ibn Abbas reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah say: he is not a (true) believer who eats his full, while his neighbour lies hungry by his side.   (Mishkat-ul-Masabih)

  5. Amr-b-Shuaib reported from his father who from his grandfather that the Messenger of Allah said: Do you know what the duties of a neighbour are? Help him if he seeks your help, give him succour if he seeks your succour, give him loan if he seeks your loan; give him relief if he is needy; nurse him if he falls ill, follow his bier if he dies; cheer him if he meets any good; sympathies with him if any calamity befalls him; raise not your building higher so as to obstruct his air without his permission; harass him not; give him when you purchase a fruit, if you do not do it take it secretly; and let not your children take it out to excite thereby the anger of his children.  (Ibn Majah)

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Rights of the Sick and disabled

Nursing and visiting the sick is compulsory (Fard) in cases when the sick man is about to die for want of care and attention. It is Fard Kefayah (compulsory on the community as whole) in case of pressing need for nursing. If one Muslim performs this nursing at the time of dire need, the whole community is absolved from the responsibilities, but if none of them takes care of the patient the entire body of the Muslims will be responsible and suffer for the sin thus committed. Nursing and visiting the sick is Sunnah in case of general sickness and disease without grave anxiety for life (Gazzali’s Ihya). The great Prophet himself discharged this important duty without making any distinction between high and low, servant and master, rich and poor, Muslim and non-Muslim.

In nursing the sick, some rules are to be observed. Patient should be allowed to rest. Noise should not be made, neither prolonged conversation should be made with him or in his presence. The person visiting the sick should have a short sitting. Diet which is conducive to the health of the sick person and which he desires to have should be given to him.

Those who visit the sick have been advised by the Holy Prophet to pray for the health and recovery of their sick brother. Since the sick man is in good grace of Allah and his prayer is accepted, they should request him to pray for their welfare in turn.

Islam has given some concessions to the sick persons from the performance of religious obligations. A sick person can defer fasting and if he suffers from a permanent illness and has no chances of recovery, he can give ransom for not fasting. If he feels some problem in performing ablution (Wadu) for prayer, he is permitted to perform dry ablution. In case a person is suffering from some grave disease and is unable to stand for prayer, he can pray while sitting or lying in the bed. Menstruation is also considered by the Qur’an as illness. Thus, a menstruating woman is exempted from performing conjugal duties to her husband. She is also exempted from prayer and certain rituals of pilgrimage. She is permitted to postpone her fasting during menstruation. The sick and disabled have been exempted from participation in Jihad.

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Rights of Slaves and Servants

Although slavery has been universally abolished in the modern age and no class of slaves legally exists in any country of the world including the Muslim countries, yet the discussion about the rights of slaves is not out of place as we cannot forget the services of Islam in changing human attitude towards this most miserable class of mankind. Now we can accord the kind treatment, which was enjoined by Islam in respect of slaves, to our personal servants.

The Qur’an enjoins upon the believers to show kindness to the slaves. The Prophet (PBUH) has given instructions to his followers that they should treat the slaves like their brothers and should give them food out of what they eat. The slaves must be provided food, clothes and residential place. They should not be charged with a work which they are unable to do. If the assignment is difficult, the master should assist the slave. The Prophet declared that the worst of the men is he who beats his slave and does not help him in performing a difficult task. If a slave makes mistakes, he should be pardoned as many as seventy times a day. In case he disobeys, he may be sold but no punishment should be inflicted on him. False allegations should not be made against an innocent slave. One who badly treats a slave will not enter Paradise. The families of the slaves should not be separated from them. Manumission and freeing the slaves was treated as a very pious act. In certain cases freeing of slaves was made compulsory for atonement of certain sins. Release of prisoners of war gratis or in exchange or against ransom was ordered and thus a major and perpetual source of slavery was closed.

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III- Conduct

Dictionary meanings of conduct are: to lead or guide; to convey; to direct: to manage; to behave; to carry or transmit. But here we are taking this word in the meaning of manner of conducting; mode of treatment; personal behaviour or deportment; character consisting of one’s virtues and vices. Synonyms of conduct are: attitude, bearing, behaviour, demeanour, deportment.

In general sense conduct is one’s behaviour, character, deeds and actions. It comprises good actions and bad actions, good qualities and bad qualities, virtues and vices, strengths and weaknesses. But we would use the word in good sense here.

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Model of conduct   

The Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, sets up the conduct of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the conduct of Prophet Ibrahim as model or an ideal conduct for the Muslims. The Muslims have been enjoined to follow the pattern of behaviour of these great Prophets of Allah and to emulate their example for building their own conduct and character. The conduct of a great saintly woman, Mary, the mother of Prophet Jesus, and that of another woman, wife of Pharaoh is also be followed by the believers especially by the believing women. Even the examples of good character set up by the companions of the Prophet of Islam and other great Muslims should inspire the ordinary believers who can derive immense benefit from them.

Particularly the conduct of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a model for a Muslim. Muhammad was the most perfect man endowed with each and every virtue which goes to make up good conduct. The Qur’an calls his conduct very sublime and great. Even before the call to prophethood, he had been given the titles of al-Sadiq (the truthful) and al-Ameen (the trustworthy) by his compatriots. The Holy Qur’an and Hadith literature provide numerous instances of excellent conduct of the Prophet of Islam which was a great factor in winning the hearts of the people to Islam.

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General code of conduct

Code of conduct prescribed by Islam for its followers comprises certain dos and don'ts which make one a good human being. Long lists of such actions which are good and recommended can be drawn up from the Qur’an and the Sunnah as there are hundreds of verses and Ahadith in both of the sacred sources of Islamic teachings. However, because of constraints of space, we would produce only few of the verses of the Holy Qur’an and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) without comments, which lay down certain rules of good behaviour. If these are acted upon, they would help to earn pleasure of Allah and goodwill of one’s fellow beings. Such verses and traditions are:

  1. And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents, and unto near kindred, and orphans, and needy, and unto the neighbour who is of kin (unto you) and the neighbour who is not of kin, and the fellow-traveller and the wayfarer and (the slaves) whom your right hands possess Lo! Allah loveth not such as are proud and boastful, (Al-Qur,an 4:36)

  2. Lo! Allah enjoineth justice and kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbiddeth lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorteth you in order that ye may take heed. Fulfil the covenant of Allah when ye have covnenanted, and break not your oaths after the asseveration of them, and after ye have made Allah surety over you. Lo! Allah knoweth what ye do.   (Al Qur’an 16:90-91)    

  3. Thy lord hath decreed, that ye worship none save Him, and (that ye show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain to old age with thee, say not “Fie” unto them nor repulse them, but speak unto them a gracious word. And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little.   (Al-Qur’an 17:23-24)

  4. Give the kinsman his due, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and squander not (thy wealth) in wantonness. Lo! the squanderers were ever brothers of the devils, and the devil was ever an ingrate to his Lord. But if thou turn away from them, seeking mercy from the Lord, for which thou hopest, then speak unto them a reasonable word. And let not thy hand be chained to thy neck nor open it with a complete opening, lest thou sit down rebuked, denuded.   (Al-Qur’an 17:26-29) 

  5. Slay not your children, fearing a fall to poverty. We shall provide for them and for you. Lo! the slaying of them is great sin. And come not near unto adultery. Lo! it is an abomination and an evil way. And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden save with right. Whoso is slain wrongfully, We have given power unto his heir, but let him not commit excess in slaying Lo! he will be helped. Come not near the wealth of the orphan save with that which is better till he come to strength; and keep the covenant. Lo! of the covenant it will be asked. Fill the measure when ye measure, and weigh with a right balance; that is meet, and better in the end. (O man), follow not that whereof thou hast no knowledge. Lo! the hearing and the sight and heart - of each of these it will be asked. And walk not in the earth exultant. Lo! thou canst not rend the earth, nor canst thou stretch to the height of the hills. The evil of all that is hateful in the sight of thy Lord.   (Al-Qur’an 17:31-38)

  6. O ye who believe! Let not a folk deride a folk who may be better than they (are), nor let women (deride) women who may be better than they are; neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith. And whoso turneth not in repentance, such are evil-doers. O ye who believe! Shun much suspicion; for lo! some suspicion is a sin. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Ye abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty (to Allah). Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful. (Al-Qur’an 49:11-12)

  7. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah asked: Who has today got up fasting at    dawn among you? Abu Bakr replied: I. He enquired: Who has followed today the bier of a dead man among you? Abu Bakr replied: I. He enquired: Who has fed today a poor man among you? Abu Bakr replied: I. He asked: who among you has today visited a sick man? Abu Bakr replied: I. Then the Holy Prophet remarked: These do not combine in a man but to admit him in Paradise.    (Muslim)

  8. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Who will take from me these sayings and act according to them or teach these who will act accordingly? I said: I, O Messenger of Allah! Then he caught me by my hand counted five (sayings). He said: Fear the forbidden things, you will then become the holiest of men; be pleased with what Allah apportioned to you, you will then be the most contented of men; be good to your neighbour, you will then be a (true) believer; love for men what you love for yourself, you will then become a (true) Muslim; and laugh not much, for excessive laughter makes the heart dead. (Ahmad, Tirmizi (Rare))

  9. Amr-b-Shuaib from his father from his grandfather reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoso has got two traits of character in him, Allah will enroll him as grateful and patient; whoso looks to one in his religious acts who is superior to him and then follows him, and whoso looks in his worldly affairs towards one who is inferior to him, and then gives thanks to Allah for gifts bestowed upon him, Allah enrolls him as patient and grateful; and whoever looks in his religious matters towards one who is inferior to him, and looks in his worldly affairs towards one who is superior to him, and becomes aggrieved for what has escaped from him, Allah will enroll him neither patient, nor grateful.   (Tirmizi)

  10. Abu Hruairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: There are seven whom Allah will give shade under His shade on the day on  which there will be no shade except His shade; a just leader; a young man who strives hard in the worship of Allah; a man whose heart is attached to the mosque when he comes out of it till he returns to it; two men who love each other for Allah, they get together for Him and separate for Him; a man who remembers Allah sincerely and whose two eyes are filled up with tears; a man whom a young girl of accomplishment and beauty calls (for sexual intercourse) and who says: “Certainly I fear Allah”, and a man who gives away alms and then keeps it concealed till his left hand knows not what his right hand spends.           (Bukhari, Muslim)

  11. Bara’a-b-Az’aeb reported: The Messenger of Allah enjoined us seven things and forbade us seven. He bade us to visit the sick, to follow the biers, to respond to the sneezer, to return greeting, to respond to the inviter, to prove true to one’s given oath and to help the oppressed; and he forbade us rings of gold, thick brocade, embroidered silk, red saddle, Qasi silk and utensils of silver; and in a narration-drink in cups, for he who drinks therein in this world will not drink there in the hereafter.    (Bukhari, Muslim)

  12. Abu Dharr said: I went in to visit God’s Messenger. He then mentioned the tradition at length till he came to the following: I asked God’s Messenger to give me some instruction and then he replied: “I enjoin you to fear God, for that will be the best adornment for everything that concerns you”. I asked him to tell me more, and he said: “Engage in recitation of the Qur’an and remembrance of God who is Great and Glorious, for it will be a means of your being mentioned in heaven and will be a light for you in the earth”. I asked him to tell me more, and he said: “Observe long silence, for it is a means of driving away the devil and is a help to you in your religion”. I asked him to tell me more, and he said: “Avoid much laughter, for it slays the heart and removes the light of the face”. I asked him to tell me more, and he said: “Speak the truth, even if it is bitter”. I asked him to tell me more, and he said: “Do not fear anyone’s blame when you are serving God”. I asked him to tell me more and he said: “Let what you know of yourself keep you from blaming other people”.  (Mishkat)

  13. ‘Ubada b. as-Samit reported the Prophet as saying: “If you guarantee me six things on your part I shall guarantee you Paradise: Speak the truth when you talk, keep a promise when you make it, when you are trusted with something fulfil your trust, avoid sexual immorality, lower your eyes, and restrain your hands from injustice”.    (Mishkat)

  14. Abu Zarr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: O Abu Zarr! There   is no wisdom like efforts, no piety like self-denial and no goodness like good conduct.   (Baihaqi)

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IV- Manners

Manner, according to dictionary meaning, is the way or mode in which a thing is done or a thing occurs or happens. It is a mode of life, outward bearing, style of utterance, behaviour in social intercourse. It is also one’s way of performing or behaving, personal style of acting or bearing, style of writing or thought, social conduct or behaviour currently considered as polite or impolite, pleasing or displeasing.

Manners can be good or bad, decent or indecent. Good and decent manners please others while bad and indecent manners make one unpopular. Islam likes good manners for its followers. The Qur’an says that none is better than a Muslim in speech, while the Prophet of Islam said that he was sent to complete good manners. In this section we shall discuss manners relating to various activities of life such as manners of entering houses, sitting in assemblies, eating and drinking, dress, etc. in the light of Islamic teachings.

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Manners of Drinking and Eating

The Qur’an prohibited excess or wastage in eating and drinking. It permits eating from your houses and the houses of your relatives and friends. You may eat together or apart. When you are invited, you must not stay longer in the house of your host as it may annoy him but he may be shy in telling you to go. Therefore, you may disperse and linger not for conversation after taking your meal.

The Prophet of Islam has given exhaustive instructions about the manners of eating and drinking. Eat with right hand, mention Allah’s name when you start eating, praise Allah when you have finished, and eat from what is next to you. Eat simple food and exercise moderation. Do not eat from the vessels and dishes of silver and gold. Preferably eat together. Some other instructions of the Prophet are reflected in the following traditions:

  1. Ibn ‘Abbas said: God’s Messenger forbade breathing or blowing into a vessel.  (Abu Daud, Ibn Majah)

  2. Ibn ‘Abbas reported God’s Messenger as saying: “Do not drink without stopping as camel does, but divide your drink into two or three sections; mention God’s name when you drink and praise Him when you finish”.    (Tirmizi)

  3. Jabir told that when Abu Humaid, one of the Ansar, brought a vessel of milk to the Prophet from an-Naqi the Prophet said: “Why did you not cover it up, even by putting a piece of wood on it?”    (Bukhari, Muslim)

  4. Salman reported: I read in the Torah that the blessing of food is in wash after it. When I mentioned it to the Prophet, he said: The blessing of food is in wash before it and wash after it.    (Tirmizi, Abu Daud)

  5. Abu Juhaifa reported the Prophet as saying: “I do not eat reclining.”    (Bukhari)

  6. Abu Hruairah said that the Prophet never expressed disapproval of food; if he desired it he ate it and if he disliked it he left it alone. (Bukhari, Muslim)

  7. Ibn ‘Umar reported God’s Messenger as saying: “When any of you eats he should eat with his right hand, and when he drinks he should drink with his right hand.”   (Muslim)

  8. Ibn ‘Umar reported God’s Messenger as saying: “None of you must ever eat or drink with his left hand, for the devil eats and drinks with his left hand,”    (Muslim)

  9. Anas reported God’s Messenger as saying: “God most high is pleased when a man eats something and praises Him for it, or drinks something and praised Him for it.”    (Muslim)

  10. Jabir told of hearing God’s Messenger say: “One person’s food is enough for two, two persons’ food is enough for four, and four persons’ food is enough for eight.”    (Muslim)

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Manners of dress

According to Holy Qur’an, God has revealed the garment to protect you from the heat and coats of mail to protect you in your wars. Clothing also covers your nakedness and preserves your physical beauty. You must take your proper dress particularly when you go to your places of worship. Let not the Satan seduce you as he caused Adam and Eve, your parents, to get out of Paradise, tore off from them their robe and made them see their shame. In the light of the Qur’anic teachings, we can understand the purpose and importance of dress.

Islam has not fixed or prescribed any code of dress and has left the matter to be decided by the individuals and the society according to their weather conditions, customs and environments. However, some fundamental rules have been laid down which require that dress should not be too short or too thin to cover the private parts properly from nakedness. The dress should be simple and not very expensive. The men should not wear silk. The Prophet liked the clothes of white and green colour and he discouraged the use of red clothes by the men. Lengthening of trousers beyond ankles was strongly forbidden as it gives an air of vanity and makes the robes dirty. Women have been prescribed veil and they should cover their body fully. The subject of veil would be addressed at proper place. Perfume was liked by the Prophet and its use has been recommended. Use of shoes and socks is desirable.

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Manners of Greeting

The Qur’an exhorts the believers to greet others by a better greeting than the one with which they were greeted; while Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) assured them of immense rewards in the Hereafter and many blessings in this world which are brought by greeting. Greeting removes ill feeling, malice and hatred between the people and promotes brotherhood and fraternity. It also demolishes sense of vanity and superiority complex in the upper class people and promotes equality. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) directed his followers that irrespective of the social status, one riding shall salute one walking, one walking shall salute one sitting; the small party shall salute the big party, and the junior in age shall greet the senior one. These directions of the Prophet cut at the roots of social distinctions and bias which divide the people into classes.

Thus it is the duty of a believer to greet the other believer whenever he meets him. The best man is he who greets first. Greeting brings great rewards and when it is accompanied with invoking of blessings and mercy of Allah on the other it increases the rewards. The best form of Islam is your giving of food to the needy ones and your greeting all whom you know and whom you know not. When you enter a house you are obliged to greet the inmates of the house. The best form of greeting is saying “peace be on you” and then handshaking.

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Asking permission for entering in houses

When you go to the house of a person for an interview or to see or meet him, you should first ask him for permission. If you are permitted you will enter the house after greeting the inmates of the house. If you are refused permission you would go back gently. Permission is to be sought thrice. If it is refused or no reply is given you are obliged to return. The proper way of seeking permission is to say: “Peace be on you. May I come in?” Permission should not be given to a person who does not begin with a greeting. Asking for permission is, however, not necessary in case of a person who has been called for or sent for and he comes with the messenger. Seeking permission is essential even in case of close relations. If you go to the house of your parents or mother with whom you live, you should ask permission. Even your servants and your children are required to ask for your permission when they want to enter your rooms at the time of privacy.

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Sitting in assemblies

For sitting in assemblies, Islam has prescribed certain manners. According to the Qur’an, the persons already sitting should make room for a new-comer when he requests for place to sit in. This generally happens when the place is already full and the new-comer finds no room. In such a situation it is incumbent on the believers to accommodate their brother. When a person enters he should greet others. The Prophet enjoined his followers not to sit keeping their hands behind back and leaning against the palms of their hands. Before sitting they should draw their clothes closer with their hands. One must not sit in the middle of a circle. The late comer should sit at the end of the assembly. One must not sit between two persons without their permission. One must not expect that the others should stand up in his honour. Nobody should make a man stand up from his seat and then sit therein.

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